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Straight Out O’ Brooklyn: A Report From The 1998 Williamsbuurg Brooklyn Film Festival

Straight Out O' Brooklyn: A Report From The 1998 Williamsbuurg Brooklyn Film Festival

Straight Out O' Brooklyn: A Report From The 1998 Williamsbuurg
Brooklyn Film Festival

by Anaye Milligan

“My goal here was to give the opportunity to others that hasn’t been
given to me. I truly wanted to create a festival of filmmakers.
There’s no politics here.”

So went the thinking of Marco Ursino, the Italian filmmaker who
conceived and produced this years Williamsburg Brooklyn Film
Festival aka “The Chameleon” — named for the multi-colored lizard
because of the neighborhood’s 5,000-strong eclectic artistic community
that is “always in transformation,” claims Ursino. “Every year will be a
different color.” The four day event (this year’s color was yellow)
which ran June 4th through June 7th, was a labor of love that had it’s
roots in frustration. Having had little success getting recognition of
his own work, Ursino came upon the idea of beginning his own festival,
joining the event this year and adding the international focus.

“I lost my motivation. At other festivals, there’s too much politics.
‘Who’s in your film? How much publicity can you afford? Can you pay to
come out and promote it?'” Ursino heard. His response: “I would like to
be an alternative.”

Ursino began working on the festival just six months ago, and found
little support in the beginning. In a market seemingly saturated with
festivals, Ursino received little encouragement from friends and
colleagues. “So many people tried to discourage me. ‘You won’t get any
submissions. There are so many festivals already…’ But I received
100 films. I screened them and put together a very solid program.”

That program included such strong showings as Cevin D. Soling’s short
Boris the Dog” featured on MTV, the colorful documentary by Seth
Henrikson & Dave Sarno, “Goreville USA“, and the winner of the SXSW Best
Narrative Feature Award, Tamara Hernandez’s perverse love story, “Men
Cry Bullets
” which also took home Williamsburg’s Best Feature award.
Other award winners were “Hole in the Head” by Eli Kabillio, an
hour-long documentary about trepanation, the process of boring a hole in
the skull, which won the Best Documentary prize; “Flying with the
,” a short subject about a woman’s subconscious, from directors
Richard Newton & Nancy Ferguson, which was awarded Best Experimental
film; and Christopher Young’s “Falling” an 18-minute short about a man
trying to survive a climbing accident with the woman he loves, was voted
Best Short film.

True to the modest beginnings of this inaugural festival, the films were
screened not in a theater, but inside what was once an old bank that has
since been converted into a community cultural center. But unlike most
new festivals, the technical production was nearly flawless. Films and
panel discussions began on time and both the picture and sound quality
were good.

Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the festival was its low
attendance, especially on Thursday and Friday. Without the recognizable
stars or big promotional budgets that Ursino didn’t want to make a
prerequisite for this festival, news of the event was largely limited to
word of mouth. And even some of those who may have wanted to attend,
may not have been able to locate the festival, as there were only a few
ads taken out in local publications.

“As far as the audience level, I was wishing for a little more,” said
Ursino. “I did what I could do, but promotion is a world of it’s own.
It’s money. Next year will be huge. There will be many more people and
sponsors involved.”

[Anaye Milligan is a screenwriter who works in Brooklyn and one of the
producers of “Floating,” which screens at the Seattle International Film
Festival and L.A.’s Outfest.]

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